In defense of Imran Khan: Who is a Liberal?

** This post is contributed by Khawar Shamsul Hassan, PTI Coordinator, Orlando, Florida, USA. **

“If you wish to converse with me”, Voltaire said, “Define your terms”.  Pakistan is a funny country where we excel at changing the meaning of the words to use them for our own benefit.  Business is now the equivalent of fraud and scams. Intelligence is the ability to lie and cheat. Integrity and honesty are equivalent to naivety and foolishness.  Politics is just another name for raw, crude and naked opportunism.

As a result we have politicians claiming religion and espousing policies totally anathema to it and liberals who don’t know what liberalism means. First of all it is a matter of context, the term liberal in a university setting could mean different than when used in a talk show or political rally.

Mr. Najam Sethi has taken a swipe at Imran Khan for lambasting the “liberals” in his speech at the Rawalpindi Bar on March 7th. Mr. Sethi forgot to mention that Imran Khan also lambasted Maulana Fazal ur Rehman by name, and other politicians who pedal religion in general. Leaving that aside for a moment, lets delve into who is a liberal and what it means to be a liberal.

A liberal, according to Alan Wolfe, is some one who stands for personal freedom, rule of law, free but responsible markets, mutual toleration and equal concern for all.  Even the most disgruntled critics of Imran Khan have to agree that he and his party, PTI, are most law abiding, peaceful and not having any goon squads.  He has shown equal concern for all, including the missing persons, abused women and minorities.

Please some one explain how can any one call themselves liberal when they are rooting for killing “terrorists of Lal Masjid” without affording them due process of law? How can one call themselves liberal and support indiscriminate aerial bombing against one’s own countrymen? No matter what their crimes, they all deserve their day at the court to defend themselves. A state cannot react to vigilante squads by engaging in vigilante behavior itself. Rule of law must be upheld, and that is what Imran Khan has supported.

Please some one further explain that how can anyone call themselves liberal while supporting the most rightwing conservative policies of the Bush neocons? The same policies and wars that were opposed by true liberals in all Western countries.  What would you call George Calloway, Imran Khans’ biggest supporter in UK? Or Barak Obama?

Mr. Sethi, I think a rethink is on. Please do not equate supporting US policies with liberalism. Just like Islam is being misused by the Al-Qaida and their ilk for their purposes, Liberalism is being misused by the Maghrebzadehs.

I can understand your and other journalist’s confusion regarding Imran Khan.  He cannot be labeled and pigeon holed because he is his own man. He ponders over an issue and takes a stand based on what he thinks is right. It might be right of center some time and left of center at other times. It might be politically incorrect at the time as well.

The reason that Imran Khan is still popular with the liberals is because they recognize that he is a true liberal at heart. Like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, whose politics was principle based and issue oriented. Like Allama Iqbal, whose interpretation of Islam earned him fatwa of kufr.  That is why he is popular with liberals like me because his politics is based on right and wrong, not right and left.

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